Giants camp postcard (cont.)
Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (first round, North Carolina) and Ramses Barden (third, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo). Here's the first thing you think when look at Nicks and Barden standing side-by-side, as they were at one point behind a Giant huddle in the morning practice I saw: Barden's huge. Just huge. As one Giant scout told me: "Barden's offense in college was run first down, run second down and throw it to Ramses on third down. Worked every time.'' At 6-6 and 230 pounds, he's 20 pounds shy of the exact dimensions of big tight end Kevin Boss. "We're going to have a lot of choices in the passing game,'' Tom Coughlin said. "Now we have to have these guys step up and make plays.'' Barden likely won't make much of an impact this year, moving from small college to the big time, but Nicks looks smoother and more sure of himself in route-running. The Giants have attacked a major weakness with gusto.
The confidence of Eli Manning. I turned around after spending 10 minutes with Mario Manningham at lunchtime, because I could feel a PR aide moving in toward me, about to nudge me. And there was Eli Manning, waiting for me. I'm not much for reading looks on players' faces, but I've never seen Manning so confident. I asked him about his offseason. "Every year you find something to work on,'' I said. "What was it this year?'' Said Manning: "The deep ball. We've just got to get better at it. Last year, we led the league in times inside the red zone, but we just didn't have enough pass plays over 20 yards, and you have to be able to threaten people deep in this league to have a great offense. So we worked on that a lot.''
On The Menu
The Giants were probably the first team to be really attentive to making their training table healthy and innovative, and they must lead the NFC in quality food choices (NO ONE leads the Browns, so I have to differentiate by conference here). On this day, players could choose between about nine entrees or sandwich choices by my count. I went with the lo-mein stir-fry, with a flat noodle underneath a carrot-broccoli-mushroom-water chestnut-light soy sauce mix, straight out of the wok. Fabulous. In addition, I stole half of a charbroiled turkey cutlet off lunch partner Adam Schefter's plate. (Actually, he gave it to me, because he saw how good my food looked and wanted to get his own stir-fry.) The cutlet was so tender I didn't need a knife, and light and tasty.
To drink, I had raspberry water. Delicious, no cals. Functional.
Not a big fan of the Edy's soft vanilla ice cream for dessert. The players should be eating nonfat frozen yogurt anyway (listen to Mr. Nutrition, going for the ice cream and then ripping it), and this ice cream was a little tasteless for my taste.
Overall grade: A-minus.
1. The Giants have two home games before the World Series. With four of the first six on the road (Dallas, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and New Orleans), they're just lucky the schedule doesn't whack them early with impossible games to win.
2. Jimmy Johnson, the Fox analyst and former Cowboys coach, had an interesting thing to say about the Giants' Sept. 20 game opening the new stadium in Arlington, Texas. His point was it's going to be such a spectacular building, with the 180-foot wide high-def TV/scoreboard hanging down from the roof, that it could turn into a real home-field advantage for Dallas. Why? Because teams that play there for the first time are going to have players gawking at the place and perhaps getting distracted by the huge images on TV above them. My advice to Tom Coughlin: Fly to Dallas three hours early, and do the Saturday walkthrough at Jerry Jones' new palace.
3. Quietly, second-round pick Clint Sintim, the linebacker from Virginia, has moved ahead of Zak DeOssie in the coaches' eyes. It seems DeOssie is moving toward being almost exclusively a long-snapper and special-teamer.
4. Quirk of the Schedule Dept.: For the second straight year, the Giants finish the season with Carolina at home and Minnesota on the road, in that order.
5. I came here expecting to hear that it'l be a breakout season for Mario Manningham. It still might be, but Manning ("I think it'll be receiver by committee'') and others knocked down my perception that it's going to be a 70-catch, 1,100-yard breakout year for the kid. It could be, and he's good enough, but the other guy in the passing game who could put up some gaudy numbers is Kevin Boss, who looks good and has Manning's total trust.
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